Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics: What to Track


I love analytics, I could sit for hours in front of a spreadsheet with a thousand formulas dissecting data from every possible angle, but the truth is that 9 times out of 10, the analytics account in question hasn’t been set up to give me the data I want or need.

Google Analytics especially has been sold as easy. You install the JavaScript snippet on the page and away you go. But it really shouldn’t be that simple, because while Google provides a lot of data out of the box, it probably isn’t going to give you everything you need without some tweaking.

Get Planning

It all starts with planning the implementation of your analytics. You want to ensure that you have the data you need when you need it. Later on, you’ll develop routine processes to get the most out of your analytics, as well as some more complex analysis that will make all the difference in how you run campaigns and marketing efforts.

You may want to try and track a number of things with Google Analytics. Before you can do anything else, you need to understand what you’re trying to track and why.

Here are a few ideas on data you may want to track.

Customer Segments

Customer segments allow all standard Google Analytics reports and custom variables to be tracked according to customer type. This will allow you to see customer journeys and key conversion goals based on the specific customer type, and will also give additional insights into customer paths and conversion rate optimization opportunities.

For example, customer segmentation for an ecommerce site would include:

  • New visitors
  • New visitors who create an account
  • New visitor account creations who add to cart
  • New visitor account creations who purchase
  • New visitor account creations who don’t add to cart
  • New visitors who don’t create an account
  • Returning visitors – no account
  • Returning visitors who create an account
  • Returning visitor who create an account & add to cart
  • Returning visitor account creations who add to cart & purchase
  • Returning visitor account creations who don’t add to cart
  • Account holders
  • Visit & add to cart
  • Visit & purchase
  • Visit with no action

Goal & Event Tracking

Goal and event tracking allows you to see specific conversions, and the value amount for those conversion points. You can define whatever goals and events you want and include dynamic factors such as purchase values.

This data can be used to evaluate the true value of a marketing activity based on the value of purchases made from that referral source, rather than approximations based on total or average values.

Example goals:

  • Customer sign up
  • Cart additions
  • Purchase & purchase amounts

Example events:

  • Click on sign up form
  • Click on check out form

Page Categories

Page categories allow you to segment your site to see metrics for specific areas and themes. If, for instance, you want to know if product category A or B is more likely to result in a customer creating an account or making a purchase, you can track this data. Similarly, you may wish to know more about how visitors interact with certain sections of your blog, categorizing pages will allow this.

This is the first in a series of articles looking at effective implementation and use of Google Analytics. Many of the lessons here can be applied to other analytics packages, too. The next article in the series will look at how to implement collection of these data items.

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